Reply by President Jacob Zuma to the debate of the Presidency budget vote, 13 May 2010

Honourable Speaker,

Honourable Deputy President,

Honourable Members,

Thank you very much for the opportunity given to us to present the Presidency budget vote yesterday.

We would also like to sincerely thank all the Honourable Members of Parliament for their comments.

The debate allowed us an opportunity to focus our attention on the fundamental role of the Constitution of our country, as the foundation of the nation that we seek to build and admire.

It is this profound policy document and law that defines who we are, where we come from and our vision for the future. The Constitution is the national vision statement.

We therefore cannot accept assertions by some Honourable Members that we do not have a vision.

The Manifesto of the ruling party, the programme of action of government as a whole and the strategic plans of government departments are derived from the national vision statement, the Constitution of the Republic.

The National Planning Commission and other structures are established to assist us to work better and more efficiently to implement that national vision.

You will recall, Honourable Members that this vision is derived from decades of hard work and foresight by the ANC. The formation of the African National Congress was an act of great foresight.

The adoption by the same organisation of South Africa`s first Bill of Rights in 1923, which was 25 years before the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, was similarly forward looking.

By the same measure, the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955, during a time of great oppression and ruthless repression, was an act requiring great vision.

Honourable Minister Naledi Pandor reminded us of that vision yesterday. We have to promote the full establishment of a united, non-racial, non-sexist democratic society in which the inherent dignity of every person is honoured, respected and upheld.

When we implement programmes designed to expand access to socio-economic rights such as ensuring access to water, electricity, sanitation, education, health and others, we are implementing the vision stated in the Constitution.

We are also proud of the fact that our Constitution is one of very few in the world that enshrines socio-economic rights.

Many countries avoided committing themselves to that extent but this nation did, because of the strong belief that all South Africans are entitled to dignity.

Honourable Speaker,

The members of this Parliament have been elected by the people of this country among other things to hold the executive to account.

We expect therefore that the work of the Presidency, and government as a whole, will be subjected to intense scrutiny.

But we should also remember that this government has been elected by the people of this country with a mandate to lead a national effort to advance the achievement of a better life for all.

The people of this country have placed in the hands of this government the responsibility for implementing a programme of fundamental social transformation.

Having spoken about the national vision, we should ask ourselves what we are doing as political parties to advance that vision.

These questions are important in the consideration of the Presidency Budget Vote.

It is critical that the resources we commit to the work of this office are used effectively and efficiently.

It is critical that they are properly used and accounted for.

But the Presidency Budget Vote cannot be limited to a simple accounting exercise.

It is fundamentally about how we mobilise the capacity of the state to advance the interests of our people, not just for the five years of this administration, but for the next generation and the one to follow.

One of our critical tasks is to promote national unity and social cohesion.

I agree with Honourable Naledi Pandor that our country continues to be challenged by the need to strive for greater cohesion and stronger unity irrespective of race, gender, religion, culture and political philosophy and contribute to creating a better society and improved quality of life.

She is correct too that each leader has a responsibility to work for this cohesion; it cannot be left to the President or Deputy President only.

We must also continue to remind each other about our painful past, and our collective effort to make sure that we will never take our country back to the divisive past of racism and hatred.

During our address to this house yesterday we said when we buried apartheid, we also buried racism.

We reiterate that we must discourage anyone, regardless of their grievances, who tries to take our country back to the divisive past of racism and division.

South Africans both black and white have accepted each other as compatriots and live in harmony in the country of their birth.

We therefore disagree with the assertion of the Honourable Pieter Mulder that many South Africans experience uncertainty with regards to the future of this country.

South Africans are optimistic about this country. Despite the challenges, they remain hopeful that things will get better each day, simply because they know that there are programmes in place, and that work is continuing to change their lives.

It is our responsibility as leaders to nurture that hope and work together to create a positive climate in which people can work together, and in which our country can succeed and thrive.

It is our responsibility too as leaders to defuse tensions and correct wrong perceptions where they occur.

We must all make all our people comfortable and secure and not seek to make one section of society insecure, for example by exaggerating fears of the minority community.

We want to believe that we passed that era during the 1990s. We now have structures and platforms to work together to discuss such issues without whipping up emotions.

Honourable Speaker,

We become worried too when Members of Parliament, who are important ambassadors of this country, fail to appreciate the achievements and successes of this nation, simply because they do not want to be seen to be giving credit to the ruling party.

The Honourable Malusi Gigaba raised the question whether or not the Opposition had helped the Presidency in discharging its mandate or if they had used the debate as a platform for media soundbites and finger pointing.

The Budget Vote debate is meant to help the Presidency to perform better. A number of speakers yesterday took up that challenge.

Umntwana WakwaPhindangene, the Honourable Prince Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi spoke about the need for a continental marketplace that would unleash the economic potential of Africa, and would accelerate our own development.

His contribution provides guidance to the Presidency in the definition of its priorities and in the deployment of its resources.

It provides a context in which we can place our ongoing efforts to contribute to the resolution of conflict in a number of countries.

Over the past year, the Presidency has dedicated much energy to the facilitation of such processes, in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and elsewhere, precisely because peace and stability are critical to the kind of economic development to which Hon Shenge has referred.

We agree that the biggest challenge to Africa`s economic integration and development is infrastructure.

Infrastructure is not only important to facilitate the movement of goods and people and intra-trade, but also a vehicle to create much needed jobs.

For our part, we will continue to play our role in the region and the continent, guided by our foreign policy to contribute to the struggle to build a better and just world.

A central message that we took to the World Economic Forum meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last week, that the Honourable Shenge referred to, was that in this changing, and somewhat uncertain world, Africa matters and South Africa matters.

South Africa is a proven connector and a bridge, not just to the last great investment frontier, Africa, but between old and emerging powers.

The economic indicators are positive and are in our favour at this point.

The World Economic Forum`s Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010 notes that there has been a significant improvement in the evaluation of South Africa`s financial markets, which have increased in rank from 24th last year to a very high 5th this year.

We must use our competitive edge and our resources to the fullest to achieve our goals of creating decent work and improving the quality of life.

And we must not be shy to acknowledge or speak about our achievements and positive attributes.

One of these attributes is that South Africa is rich in intellectual capital, as evidenced by our world renowned universities, research institutions, centres of excellence, technologically advanced businesses and creative sectors.

South Africa`s innovations in areas such as banking for the poor, astronomy, ICT and others areas are recognized as playing an important role in the region`s development. South Africans should be proud of these achievements.

This country`s achievements, especially the size of its economy relative to the rest of the African continent, and the extent to which its businesses are integrated into the economies of Southern Africa, makes it a critical economic and political player in Africa.

The impact of one percentage economic growth in South Africa is said to contribute between 0.5 and 0.75 percent growth in the rest of Africa.

South Africa will therefore strive to play a positive and constructive role on the continent through its drive to promote intra-Africa trade.

It will continue to increase levels of competitiveness with the objective of making Africa an attractive trade and investment destination and growth pole.

Honourable members,

We must really appreciate the fact that economic conditions continue to improve in South Africa. Data released this week confirms that the manufacturing sector is growing faster than some analysts expected.

Our macroeconomic projections in the Budget presented by the Minister of Finance in February expected GDP growth to rise to 2.3 per cent in 2010 and 3.6 per cent by 2012.

The Minister indicated in the Treasury budget vote this week that those estimates were probably too conservative, and might be revised upwards at some point.

We need to take advantage of the fact that investors who are coming out of a recession are looking at opportunities, and given that our economy is well-managed.

Having said that, the employment figures released last week also showed that some of the apparent employment gains of the last quarter of 2009 were short-lived.

Some sectors of the economy are still weak, and we again urge employers and workers in affected firms to use the measures we introduced to save companies and save jobs.

These measures that we as government, organised business, the trade unions and the community put in place to counter-act the effects of the crisis would remain in place.

Honourable members,

Another good news story is that various research agencies are indicating an improvement in the quality of lives of South Africans.

The Bureau for Economic Research at the University of Stellenbosch recently reported that our economic growth since 2003 has benefited many South Africans, not just a few.

The number of black consumers identified in the poorest three categories of the Living Standards Measure fell from nearly eleven million to under six million in the six years from 2003 to 2009. The standards of living are improving.

The number of black consumers in the top four categories of the Living Standard Measure grew from under one-and-a-half million to nearly four-and-a-half million.

While welcoming that progress, we also note that much more still needs to be done.

Therefore, the Hon Bantu Holomisa is correct to ask:"For how long, Mr President, will the millions that live in the desolate former Bantustans and townships, that were the dumping ground of Apartheid, accept their lot?"

In doing so, he touches on the most critical issue that this House, this government and this Presidency must confront more vigorously, the general living conditions of our people.

This is not only a matter of social cohesion and stability. It is a matter that goes to the heart of our assertion that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

This is not just about citizenship. It is about all South Africans having an equal claim to the country, its land, and its resources.

On the 18th of May, I will meet with Premiers and their MECs responsible for human settlements, in a special Presidential Coordinating Council to focus specifically on human settlements.

We will ponder questions such as what is our understanding of the ideal living conditions of our people, what should our communities look like and what are the challenges?

We have provided free housing. The indications are that we have met the housing backlog in most provinces. However, in a country where many are unemployed, the houses are rented out for regular cash flow. People move back into shacks in areas where the services are not planned for and demand services there.

This requires a national cohesive approach. We have to go beyond appealing to the people not to rent or sell the free houses. We will discuss how to ensure that each house allocated is occupied by the people it was allocated to.

We look forward to a fruitful session using the experiences of all nine provinces.

Honourable Speaker,

We concur with the Honourable Themba Godi who reminded us that we should ensure the continuous pursuance of transformation and good governance.

We have noted his reminder on accountability in the use of public resources, and also that there must be pride in serving the people.

That is the message we are sending to our public servants as we move in a new direction of doing things differently, putting people first.

The Honourable Dene Smuts raised serious concern about the restructuring of the National Prosecuting Authority, especially reports of the disbanding of specialized units.

Minister Collins Chabane outlined yesterday that after signing performance agreements with the President, Ministers will in turn negotiate delivery agreements with all partners that are responsible for a particular outcome, and these would be concluded by July.

The Justice Crime Peace and Security cluster is in the process of negotiating its delivery agreement.

Any possible restructuring of the NPA has been deferred pending the finalisation of what the cluster must first conclude.

Let me assure the Honourable Smuts that we will put the interests of the country and the Constitution first in going about this very important task of ensuring that justice is dispensed fairly, impartially and effectively.

The Honourable Patricia De Lille wants us to release the performance agreements signed with Ministers. The process is still ongoing, as explained by both Minister Chabane and myself.

Ministers are still to conclude delivery agreements within their clusters. These detailed delivery agreement will clarify roles, mandates, resources and other critical information.

We urge Honourable Members to bear with us while we conclude this groundbreaking process which will truly change the way government works.

We trust that the Opposition wants access to the agreements so that they can provide advice on how to strengthen implementation, and not to generate media headlines about who is performing, who is not and who should be fired.

That is not the purpose of these agreements. The purpose is to improve and change the way government works. It is not a punitive exercise.

We reiterate that the defining feature of this administration will be to change the way government works. We want government to work faster, better and more effectively.

We would greatly benefit from suggestions from Members of Parliament on how to make this exercise a success.

Honourable members,

You will agree with me that the 2010 World Cup spirit has truly ignited unprecedented displays of national pride.

This very House turned colourful yesterday, due to the beautiful scarves in the colours of the national flag that we all wore yesterday, courtesy of the International Marketing Council.

We acknowledge the good work of the International Marketing Council, which reports to the Presidency via Minister Chabane, the Department of Arts and Culture, GCIS, Sports and Recreation, SA Tourism and other agencies that are part of a massive campaign to promote the World Cup amongst South Africans.

The branding and marketing is visible and successful, keep up the good work.

We urge Honourable members to help us take the campaign to every corner, to mobilise South Africans to deliver memorable and successful event.

Honourable Members,

Let me re-emphasise the need for us to work together to build our country.

We have achieved a lot in the past 16 years, we just have to build on it. This country belongs to all of us.

In closing let me again borrow from Inkosi Albert Luthuli`s speech to the Congress of Democrats in 1958.

"It is often suggested, quite rightly, that democracy was developed in homogeneous communities - in Europe, possibly in Asia to an extent - in communities that were homogeneous in colour. Here in South Africa we are not a homogeneous community, not as far as race and colour are concerned nor possibly even in culture. It is suggested that people in homogeneous communities can very well speak of democracy being shared; but in a community like ours, diverse in very many respects, you can`t hope to share democracy.

But I personally believe that here in South Africa, with all our diversities of colour and race, we will show the world a new pattern for democracy.

I think there is a challenge to us in South Africa to set a new example for the world. Let us not side-step that task. What is important is that we can build a homogeneous South Africa on the basis not of colour but of human values".

I am sure we are all up to the challenge. Working together, we can do more!

I thank you.